Professional News
AMA Steers MDs Around Internet Prescribing Pitfalls
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 14 page 9-9

The American Medical Association adopted new guidelines on Internet prescribing last month in an effort to help physicians avoid potential disciplinary actions and malpractice problems.

"The AMA supports the use of this new technology to help physicians care for their patients," said AMA President-elect John Nelson, M.D., in a press release. "Physicians can refer to these new guidelines as they integrate online prescriptions into their practices while continuing to provide high-quality care."

The guidelines are intended to protect patients from substandard medical care and physicians from potential disciplinary actions by state medical boards and other regulatory agencies. Since 1998, 27 of the 70 medical boards nationwide have disciplined doctors for improperly prescribing medications online, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards.

The most important advice to physicians from the AMA is that they should not prescribe medications online without first obtaining a medical history from the patient and performing a physical examination. Moreover, physicians should be sure to have a license in the state or states where their patients reside.

To protect patient privacy, the AMA recommends that physicians use a secure network with password requirements and prescription encryption. Medem Inc., for example, has these features. Medem was founded in 1999 by some of the nation’s leading medical societies, including the AMA and APA.

The AMA also identified these safeguards for physicians who prescribe online:

• Have adequate dialogue with each patient about treatment options, risks, and benefits.

• Follow up with the patient as appropriate.

• Maintain an updated medical record that is readily available to the patient and to his or her other health care professionals, subject to the patient’s consent.

• Include the electronic prescription information in the patient’s medical record.

• Routinely transmit identifying information including full name, practice address, and financial interests in any products prescribed.

The AMA "Guidance for Physicians on Internet Prescribing" is posted on the AMA’s Web site at www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/10292.html.

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